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DRIVE ANGRY 3D - THE PIT OF HORROR REVIEW -- [Posted 6 March 2011]

It's impossible not to love the gratuitous "Shot In 3D" tag on the poster, presumably a flip-off to recent 3D cinematic fare where the effect was retrofitted as a gimmicky afterthought. Patrick Lussier's Drive Angry would work just as well in two dimensions as an engaging supernatural road movie with over-the-top violence and strikingly well characterized performances. The extra dimension merely adds more bang for buck visually, and does it very well.

Nicolas Cage stars as John Milton, a years-deceased sinner who manages to break out of Hell and returns to Earth with a personal mission. It seems that in Hell, burning isn't the worst part; the continual video feed of seeing your loved ones on Earth going through their own tribulations make your stay down under unbearable. And in this case, Milton's daughter and husband have recently been murdered by a satanic cult leader named Jonah King (Billy Burke), who has taken the couple's newborn daughter and plans to sacrifice her at a special ceremony with disciples who join in with his devil crap. Grandpa Milton ain't having it.

Coming to life in Colorado and putting an end to a few of King's lackeys, Milton learns that the sacrifice is to take place within the next few days in Louisiana. On his way there, he stops at a local greasy spoon diner, where a waitress named Piper (Amber Heard) quits her job after her low-life boss (Jack McGee) sexually harasses her. She happens to drive a souped-up and vintage Dodge Charger that is to Milton's liking, and when it goes dead a few blocks away from work, he shows up on foot, fixes her engine and accepts a ride as far as she'll take him in the direction of Louisiana. Once she drops him off at the trailer park where she lives with her two-timing fiance Frank (co-scripter Todd Farmer), Milton witnesses a violent confrontation between the two and intervenes, knocking Frank cold and spiriting Piper away in the Charger.

Enter the Accountant. This is Satan's sharply-dressed, and even sharper-tongued hunter of escaped souls. Played by character actor William Fichtner, and I'm just being honest here, he pretty much steals the show. After Milton and Piper attempt to take refuge at a shady bar and motel in Oklahoma, the Accountant comes a-calling, recruiting a few naive cops along the way with his fake FBI credentials, and nearly upstaging an entourage of King's own henchmen who have been sent to hunt down Milton. Milton and Piper escape, leaving a wake of dead bodies, which soon attracts the attention of a vigilante-style Oklahoma police chief (Tom Atkins) with blood in his eye.

After a series of bloody confrontations, car chases and shoot-outs, the fugitives find themselves without a working vehicle and in need of a friend. Genre favorite David Morse provides the character Webster, who had been a pallbearer at Milton's funeral, is familiar with the fate of Milton's granddaughter and is ready to help. The full moon date is closing in for the sacrifice, and all Hell's getting ready to break loose. Despite her being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Piper is fully onboard with helping Milton. And at an abandoned and delapidated prison complex in Louisiana, it's on.

Drive Angry has a stylishly gritty look, even in three dimensions. The vintage muscle cars, the sleazy bar/motel complex, the treacherous two-lane truss bridge over the Red River in Shreveport, plus other locales give the movie a "grindhouse" 1970's feel. If not for some nods to current-day technology, this film could easily have been set back a decade or three. But it isn't, so there are a few amusing fish-out-of-water moments with Milton, such as his first experience with a cellular phone. There is also a curious piece in Milton's arsenal, a weapon which can supposedly destroy a soul entirely so that neither Heaven nor Hell will be a destination; hence, even the Accountant is vulnerable.

Director Lussier co-scripted with Farmer, his partner on the recent and entertaining My Bloody Valentine remake. He styles this film in a delightfully rugged 70's "road movie" drive-in stormer, albeit with the carnage considerably amped up for today's crowd. Farmer's role as the philandering Frank is wonderfully hissable, and the nasty comeuppance he receives early into the tale is great campy fun. And it should be noted that the aforementioned truss bridge sequence is a terrifically gripping and claustrophobically tense setpiece which is truly one of the film's standouts.

There's clearly room for a sequel to Drive Angry. Even as the Accountant is at one point in the crosshairs of the soul-destroying weapon, he non-chalantly tells Milton: "Another will just take my place." A new John Milton tale, perhaps seeking permanent redemption, would certainly be welcome. But it had damned well better include Willam Fichtner encoring as the Accountant. Even set against the formidable presence of the vigilantly gearshift-grinding Nicolas Cage, Fichtner is still Drive Angry's crown jewel hood ornament. That's not a bad thing to have on your resume.

'DRIVE ANGRY 3D' A Film by Patrick Lussier
Written by Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer. Directed by Patrick Lussier.

[DISCUSS ON OUR FORUMS] [Review By Petch Lucas]

Drive Angry 3D

YEAR: 2011



RUN TIME 104 minutes (US)